The vision for the Noli Indian School is to provide a learning Community that celebrates academic and vocational achievement within the context of cultural heritage awareness.
Background and Context –The People of Soboba
The descendants of the Soboba people are those whom have lived on and occupied the land that is presently known as the cities of San Jacinto, Hemet, Valle Vista and Winchester. Today the Soboba Indians' nearly 7,000-acre reservation lies in the lower reaches of the San Jacinto Mountains, across the San Jacinto River from the city of San Jacinto. The Soboba Band has a current enrollment of approximately 1,200 tribal members. Soboba’s Tribal members have a rich and diverse Tribal history as members come from both Cahuilla and Luiseño ancestry. Prior to both Mexican and American settlement in the valley the people of Soboba were virtually self-sufficient.
The Noli Indian School
Opening its doors in 1990 with a mission to provide improved opportunities for Native American youth, the Noli School was recognized in 1994 by the BIA and became the first grant-funded school that is tribally governed. The school serves the educational needs for grades 6 through 12, is 100% Native American students and represents approximately 27 Tribes. The majority of students are bussed from 15 local reservations some as far away as 80 miles.
In 2011, JCJ Architecture and C.W. Driver Construction Company were selected by the Tribal Council to prepare a Master Plan and Feasibility Plan for a new Noli Indian School on the Soboba Reservation. Future student population projections predicted this school to have between 1,200 and 1,500 students within the next eight to ten years and it was determined the existing school’s site could not support the anticipated growth in enrollment.
Tribal members, teachers, administrators and school board members participated in a series of workshop forums. Areas of exploration focused on how the 21st century classroom is used to stimulate learning; ways that architecture can facilitate to inspire curiosity and foster excitement in group as well as individual learning; opportunities to share common functions within a school program; how to integrate sustainability into the classroom. There was a strong desire to develop a school that was focused around environmental considerations and for the school to be a learning laboratory for sustainability.
Site Feasibility and Selection
The team reviewed three sites, studying the “Oaks” and the “Arroyo” in detail. It was determined that the “Arroyo” would provide the best opportunity for development. This site was physically more connected to the community and had the greatest potential access to the play fields adjacent to the existing Noli School site. The team found this site to have fewer physical as well as cost constraints, allowing for quicker development with limited capital outlay for offsite improvements.
The vision for the Noli Indian School was to provide a learning Community that celebrated academic and vocational achievement within the context of cultural heritage awareness. The schools physical facilities needed to address the current and future trends in sustainable stewardship and responsibility. To that end the school would be a teaching tool utilizing the technologies of solar, wind, geo-thermal, the use of “green” materials, and recycling as a social responsibility. The school would have a vocational technology component as well as programs for the performing arts, music and drama. The new campus was designed to accommodate between 1200 and 1500 students. Classrooms were sized to accommodate between 20-25 students. The Library, Food Service, Physical Education/Multi-purpose Gym, Performing Arts, and Cultural Center would serve the student population and the wider community at times the school was not in session.
Pre-School: 6 classrooms and associated spaces -11,460 gsf
Grades K-6: 28 classrooms and associated spaces – 37,440 gsf
Middle School/High School: 31 classrooms and associated spaces – 61,080 gsf
Administration – 20,448 gsf
Common Areas – 67,068 gsf
Cultural Center, Archive, Senior Center – 6,720 gsf
Total Gross Area – 215,130 sf
The Noli Indian School will be a 345,000 square feet state of the art campus integrating both technology and environmentally advanced architecture. The design provided outdoor connections - self-contained learning spaces linked by interpretive, interactive walkways and landscape. The 3 schools (elementary, middle, high school) were arranged around a central courtyard which functioned as circulation and an active learning space. Other key elements included a multi-functional courtyard, a softly sloped recessed amphitheater, and classroom gardens. Interpretive and interactive walkways and paths were designed throughout the campus. All these areas were intended to create interactions that allowed students to gain a sense of community.
The buildings were sited to optimize day lighting and sustainability and minimize impacts on the natural resources: systems to collect rainwater from various roofs and feed into an underground tank; a vegetated roof to control water runoff during the rainy season; strategically-placed shade trees to reduce the urban heat island effect.
The L-shape plan was used as the pattern for the classroom design. An average of 1,200 sf, the spatial model would encourage students to fully participate in activities with other students as acquiring knowledge for themselves. The classroom space could be reorganized to allow for premium flexibility and permits a wide variety of student groupings and activities. This dynamic learning environment supports a variety of instruction methods and could quickly adapt to change.
The Pre-School module was designed provide areas where children can explore, collaborate, and engage in multi-sensory experiences. The outdoor learning environment was a safe, secure and integral extension of the classroom.
Grades K-6 and 7-8
To foster student’s sense of community and individuality, L-shaped classrooms were organized around a central learning courtyard so individual and group activities could extend outdoors. Throughout the indoor and outdoor spaces, were spaces for gathering, sitting and presenting, and alcoves for quite play, reflection, and reading. As part of each classroom there is an outdoor garden space designed to be an extended learning environment.
The building organization and guiding principles for grades 9-12 were similar to grades 7-8 with an additional focus on vocational classes and provision for more mature features such as individual workspaces, presentation spaces, studios, galleries, and programmatically adaptable labs.
Core spaces such as the Library, Visual and Performing Arts and the Gymnasium were designed to meet the needs of the wide range of student ages, abilities and social-emotional needs.
The cultural center was designed to honor the diversity and history of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indian people by preserving cultural and tribal traditions, nurturing contemporary expressions, and facilitating research and education for the community. With formal exhibit galleries for historic and contemporary exhibitions and programs, the Center was intended to house collections of cultural treasures and provide places for meeting, celebration, dialogue and research.